Christians in India are facing one of their most difficult Christmases in memory and in just one week have suffered over a half dozen acts of targeted persecution, according to a report Wednesday from International Christian Concern (ICC).
Growing intolerance and persecution of India’s Christians is severely curtailing Christians’ ability to freely celebrate the Christmas holiday, ICC said, and many have been forced to adjust their Christmas celebrations accordingly.
In some cases, churches have been obliged to cancel entire programs out of fear that the programs will invite attacks.
“We have cancelled all our Christmas events in Banni Mardatti village, including carols, cottage meetings, and pre-Christmas events,” said Pastor Raja Bhovi of His Grace Church in India’s Karnataka State.
“There is a fear of being attacked by Hindu radicals,” he added, referring to recent events.
Earlier this month, a mob of extremist Hindu nationalists attacked and savagely beat members of Rev. Bhovi’s church community as they were clearing a plot of land for the building of a church. Afterward, they cut off the water supply for all 25 Christian families, threatening to drive them out of the village unless they agreed to renounce their faith in Christ.
“We were small in number at the police station compared to mob of Hindu radicals,” the pastor said. “All of the 25 Christian families were present at the police station to lodge a complaint; however, the police told us that Christians cannot hold any meetings in the village and that pastors from outside the village cannot visit the Christian families, even during this festive season.”
ICC said that the attack on His Grace Church was just one of several acts of anti-Christian persecution that occurred that week, and as a result, “at least 10 Christians were arrested on trumped up criminal charges, 25 Christian families were cut off from clean drinking water, and several churches, including one church with nearly 600 members, were shut down.”
That same week, extremists closed a church in Uttar Pradesh after filing a false criminal complaint against the church’s pastor, Rev. Ramjit, accusing him of being involved in forced religious conversions.
As a result, the police told the pastor that he was no longer permitted to hold Sunday worship services at his church.
“We are very uncertain about this year’s Christmas,” Pastor Ramjit said. “Unlike previous years, we have been told to shut down our church since December 8. It is a very painful situation for us now. We are all hoping that things will change.”
Pastor Ramjit has appealed the decision and is trying to get permission to hold a Christmas service on December 25.
“If we fail to get permission, we will have to organize several smaller gatherings in homes on Christmas day,” Ramjit said. “We are going to have a service one way or another.”
For his part, Pastor Bhovi said he planned to take the 25 Christian families of his flock to Arsikare, a town that is 30 kilometers away from their home in Banni Mardatti village, to celebrate Christmas.
“Our hope is that we will have a peaceful Christmas celebration, even though it is away from our homes,” Bhovi said.